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A Family IT/Tech Business??

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the blood-is-thicker-than-toner dept.

Businesses 398

adzoox writes "As I have just hired on my girlfriend to help out with some secretarial work in my Apple consulting, sales, and technical service business, and considering having my brother work with me soon; I'd like to know what the /. readers think about family in the 'Tech Workplace.' Obviously things aren't hectic like a restaurant, but my father and friends have all warned me against mixing business and pleasure and family. Do any of you have successful family owned IT businesses, eBay businesses, or programming/software consulting engineering businesses and what's been or secret to success? If not successful what unique problems did you encounter? How can I make it successful? And most importantly how do you handle authority (tardiness, work ethic, and workplace codes) with a girlfriend?"

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Legit 2nd post. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563951)

This is a legitimate 2nd Post.

Re:Legit 2nd post. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563994)

This is NOT offtopic.

Its overrated! Mod accordingly.

Careful planning (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563952)

Oh, dude. You are opening yourself up to all sorts of abuse from the Slashdot crowd, but I will try and make some constructive comments to head off any noise.

I have worked in the past with family on a couple of businesses ranging from molecular modeling and pharmacologic development to health care and real estate and I can tell you sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. You will simply have to find out by jumping in, but make sure that everybody understands that running your own business is hard work. Just in case you did not get that: Running your own business is hard work. Sorry to repeat myself, but I have seen the attitude more than once of people saying "Hey, I will start my own business and it will be cool. I can set my own hours, etc...etc...etc...", but many folks have no idea how complicated or difficult it can be. Beyond your knowledge of the work involved, everybody else in a small start up or small company will have to have strong work ethics, some luck and some insight into the market you are looking at working in. Get yourself a good CPA to do quarterly taxes, have regularly scheduled (but short and concise) status update meetings, and decide before you go in, which people are going to accept which responsibilities. Also, be aware that starting your own business can occupy all aspects of your life including your moment to moment thoughts and difficulties can arise if everybody involved in the early stages does not have the same vision.

Also, I don't know what your relationship is with your girlfriend, but both of you need to establish right from the start whether or not she is an employee or a partner, and you need to decide for your relationship what the future (if any) holds in terms of marriage. Even long term live-in relationships can have "common-law" implications, so if the business takes off, but your relationship does not, how are you going to deal with that? It might also be prudent to establish early on what the investment shares are as well. Who "owns" the business? Is your brother going to be a partner or employee?

Re:Careful planning (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563984)

If you marry her without a prenup, she will suddenly get ownership of half of the business. If that's okay with you, then you really don't have a problem. However, if that scares you at all, you need to make it clear that she's being paid as an employee and that's all she's getting out of the company.

However, on the converse, if you make it clear to her that she's getting an ownership interest in the company, she'll have more interest in the quality of the work, and she might be willing to accept lower wages today for the good of the company in the future... since company profits and her own spending money will be very closely related.

Re:Careful planning (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564144)

If you marry her without a prenup, she will suddenly get ownership of half of the business. If that's okay with you, then you really don't have a problem. However, if that scares you at all, you need to make it clear that she's being paid as an employee and that's all she's getting out of the company.

This calls for sensitive handling.

Will you marry me? (You realise you'll still only be an employee, right?)

Not quite true (5, Informative)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564195)

It probably varies by state, but community property only applies to the increase in value. If the company is woth $100K when you marry, and $120K when you divorce, community property only splits the $20K increase.

My own divorce showed up this and one other oddity. She provided the down payment on the house, I provided the monthly payments, yet her down payment counted as a gift to community property because it was BEFORE the marriage, and would have counted as her own money if we had bought the house AFTER marriage. Two lawyers told me the same thing.

Community property is not at all intuitive.

Re:Careful planning (2, Informative)

Zonekeeper (458060) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564199)

How did this get modded as funny? It should be modded informative. In my state, the wife has to sign off on any legal paperwork to do with the business, whether she works in it or not, whether she understands it or not. This can be a bad thing if she happens to be mad at you on the day you sign the loan for that new piece of equipment to handle that new customer. A stupid law, one that I'm not sure a prenup would preclude it's application.

Re:Careful planning (2, Insightful)

websaber (578887) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563987)

The problem with having your girlfreind work for you is that if she gets tardy there comes a point were you are just paying her to have sex. The great philosopher sienfeld figured that one out.

Re:Careful planning (3, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564040)

Well, you could always spank her before it gets to that point.

Then again, that might be her plan.

Keep everything on paper and signed (4, Interesting)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564082)

I'd be worried about the way family members trust each other rather than have formally signed contracts and business agreements. This is great until something goes wrong then its horribly horribly messy.

I've actually provided evidence in one case where that happened and the halves of the family were sueing each other in court including some Linux related matter.

So stick it all on paper then at the end of the day if bad stuff occurs everyone knows where they stand.

The other arguments I've seen about family business are really about diversification - if you and your girlfriend both work for the same company you can both lose your job at the same moment much more easily.

In the UK lots of people employ family members just to improve their tax position. Hiring children to create tax efficient ways to provide university funding, hiring wives to use their tax allowances etc.

I guess the US has similar "opportunities"

Setting your own hours (4, Insightful)

mdfst13 (664665) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564102)

Just agreeing with the parent post. When you own your own business, you are not your own boss and you do not set your hours: your customers are and do. At best, you can choose when you will work your extra hours and what customers to pursue. However, you will find that you can't really turn away customers, just determine which to actively pursue (going door to door allows you to determine which doors, etc.).

One has *more* bosses when one owns a business, as all the customers can tell you what to do. At least when you work for someone, only that person determines your salary. On the bright side, you do have more flexibility when one of your "bosses" fires you, as you have others to pick up the slack. However, if that happens too much, you won't be able to find new customers.

Re:Careful planning (5, Interesting)

TheViciousOverWind (649139) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564128)

I've worked with a girlfriend in "software development" - One man company, she acted as a sales(wo)man.
The problem is that when everything goes great, there's no problems, but if she suddenly decides to go shopping instead of working, you can't help but have negative thoughts about it ("Why doesn't she put in as much work as I do?"), and ultimately those thoughts will affect the normal relationship too, you can't just seperate those 2 things.

Also I were put in a situation where my (ex)girlfriend told me she found some new customers, just to make me happy, because I was feeling depressed one day, and I later found out that she had not even talked to them.
Of course this is more of a trust issue, but I found that mixing business and pleasure on a full-time scale, was definately not the way to go for me.

TV can teach us everything! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564207)

Watch American Chopper and American Hot Rod.

In American Chopper, Paul Sr. works with his sons. Mostly by yelling at them and slamming doors.

In American Hot Rod Boyd Coddington makes bad ass custom cars with a whole bunch of people, some of whom appear unemployable, and his EX-WIFE.

Plan on getting her a ring... (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563953)

The thing about working with your girlfriend is that she's not yet your wife. If the relationship fails, you're not going to just lose her love but also her usefulness as an employee... if you're ready to commit to depending on her on a business level, there should be a ring on her finger. You can never underestimate the importance of the front line secretary, she'll be first person most of your customers deal with... everything she does will reflect on you and your company.

Your brother, by comparision, can't turn on you as easily. Afterall, if there's ever a problem your parents will end up serving as a binding arbitration process. He might walk away from you, but he's never going to seriously cause problems on the way out like an ex might.

Re:Plan on getting her a ring... (4, Insightful)

ScooterBill (599835) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563976)

"he's never going to seriously cause problems on the way out like an ex might"

Ha! Don't count on it. Family members can be far more treacherous than business partners who just want to move on. There's usually lot's of old baggage in families.

M

Re:Plan on getting her a ring... (2, Funny)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564041)

Yes, but seeing that he gets along with his brother well enough to hire him, and is willing to consider the business advice of his father, I don't think his family is the kind that's shown on Jerry Springer.

Lateness (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563955)

Lateness, tardiness, poor work ethic = Bring out the gimp!

Labor Outsourcing (0, Troll)

Sour Protein Supreme (762207) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564071)

While I agree with your post (in theory) up to a point, the reality is that immigrant workers (in particular, illegal ones) have been shown to be significantly better at time management and have greater productivity than their white counterparts. Many employers have a preconceived notion of illegals as dirty, uneducated "wetbacks" who are only good at menial janitorial jobs. The reality is that the American economy would mushroom if only we would take advantage of the enormous low-cost workforce out there currently wasted as tomato-pickers and housemaids.

For instance, if the federal minimum wage law was amended to allow undocumented workers to be paid $2-3/hour, employers could afford up expand their operations up to 75%! Imagine creating HUNDREDS of thousands of jobs with the stroke of the pen, at NO EXTRA cost to industry! These are numbers George W. Bush could only dream of with his well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective tax cuts. Hopefully the upcoming election will highlight this important issue.

Fp (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563956)

FP

Re:Fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563966)

You OH SO FAIL IT!!

My Legit 2nd post beats your Fp by daylight.

YOU FAIL IT!

Lameness filter sucks donkeys balls.

A few pitfalls come to mind (4, Informative)

ScooterBill (599835) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563957)

1. Your family may get along exceptionally well but keep in mind that any other employees may view the relationship skeptically and even resent you when you take a long lunch with your brother or promote a family member.

2. Make sure you have a well written agreement between any family members. If there's a falling out, it hurts much more when there's no clear solution to the business interests.

3. What happens if your girlfriend, God forbid, breaks up with you? Can you handle seeing her at work, knowing she's not your girlfriend anymore? The reverse is also true, she could resent you. Have a reasonable employment agreement for this. Be generous up front and you'll save legal fees down the road.

I've found that when the money's flowing and times are good that even big problems aren't much of a challenge. It's when things get tight that even the best friendship can be tested. A family member isn't usually someone you can say goodbye to and never see again.

Good luck,
M

Re:A few pitfalls come to mind (5, Informative)

TrentL (761772) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564003)

3. What happens if your girlfriend, God forbid, breaks up with you? Can you handle seeing her at work, knowing she's not your girlfriend anymore? The reverse is also true, she could resent you. Have a reasonable employment agreement for this. Be generous up front and you'll save legal fees down the road.

I think this is the biggest risk. Not only will you have to remain on good terms with your girlfriend, but other employees will resent your relationship with her.

Re:A few pitfalls come to mind (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564164)

Not only will you have to remain on good terms with your girlfriend, but other employees will resent your relationship with her.

This is absolutely true. I knew a couple that was living together, and at work one of them was the owner and the other an employee. All the other employees were convinced that the boss favored his partner over them at work, even though he tried hard to be even-handed.

Re:A few pitfalls come to mind (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564020)

At the end of the day mixing your relationship with work is going to bite you in the ass.

I've done it myself, and it kinda worked, but eventually we found that all we ever did was talk about the damn business. It's quite easy to replace a relationship with a business arrangement and not notice: you're still sleeping together; you still get together for dinner etc., but now instead of making an effort to really talk to each other you end up just bitching about your work.

And hey, even in the best relationships it's often good to just get away from each other for a while!

HTH.

Easy (-1, Offtopic)

KDan (90353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563964)

Buy a whip. Attach nails or other assorted sharp bits to the end.

Daniel

If I had a girlfriend... (0, Offtopic)

burtonator (70115) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563965)

If I had a girlfriend... I would be happy mixing her with anything...

That reminds me...... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563971)

Today, I was lifting an old carpet, as we have a damp problem. Underneath there were hundreds of slugs and worms. My wife and I picked up about 40 slugs and put them in a pair of my wife's panties. I then put the panties on. The feeling was amazing. I got a huge erection and I could feel them sliding over my glans, and round my balls. Eventually I could feel one going up my bum. I knew I would come soon, so I let my wife tie me up, with my hands and feet speadeagled and attached to some furniture. She then took the panties down and about 15 of the slugs were crawling over my cock and balls. I came, spurting out loads of cum all over the poor things, but still couldn't move. My wife then took the other slugs out of the panties and placed them on my cock. She was careful to put some of them right on the opening of my cock, which was now covered in a mixture of sperm and glistening goo from the slugs. She opened up my arse and tried to put one in there too. I got hard again quite quickly as I thought of these slimy little things crawling over me. I imagined them biting me. One seemed to be trying to enter my uretha and this caused me to come again.
That was 4 hurs ago. My cock is now very itchy, but I am about to give them another "feed".

You are asking for trouble (2, Insightful)

LinuxBSDNotSCO (738941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563973)

I wouldn't ever consider haveing my gf work with me. I think it is cool for her to have those skills thoug. If she makes a mistake you wont be able to get pissed. I would explain to your family that you will help them start their oen consolting buisness. But if you don't take my advice I will still wish you good luck.

Re:You are asking for trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564066)

this is more than a 0 come on mods it is better that what you gave it. It is at least a +2 insitefull.

IT WON'T WORK BECAUSE AMERICANS ARE TOO STUPID!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563978)

JUST WATCH JERRY SPRINGER SHOW!!

You'll see how dumb AMERICANS really are! I was laughing so bad I had tears! This is how dumb they really are! Some dumb couples whine about their problems and average joes go Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!. MUAHHAHHAHHAH! I couldn't believe it!

Re:IT WON'T WORK BECAUSE AMERICANS ARE TOO STUPID! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564034)

d00d. no one is that stupid, its an act.

Re:IT WON'T WORK BECAUSE AMERICANS ARE TOO STUPID! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564121)

It may be an act, but the ratings are still good.

Stupid 'mericans..

mix it and have them around all the time (1)

tronicum (617382) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563979)

As con I would think is you have your girlfriend around you the whole time. Even if its just your mother or brother, could you say them I will cut your loan or this was dumb like you might could with a stranger.

Of course there are some pros, like she knows you and what drives you mad, so she might do the coffee like you want it ;)

third time lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563985)

Hi Michael,
Its an iterative learning process,
It is OK to mix business with family as long as you don't mind making a mess the first couple of times.
If you really like your girlfriend, I suggest you practice on other less critical members of your family...

Re:third time lucky (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564171)

If you really like your girlfriend, I suggest you practice on other less critical members of your family...

Void where prohibited by law.

KFG

Your girlfriend... (1)

burtonator (70115) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563986)

Too late! I was thinking about having your girlfriend work at my tech company!

Re:Your girlfriend... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564024)

Keep on trying for that +funny, fuckface. I hope your Karma turns shit.

Re:Your girlfriend... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564044)

shut up, you gay homosexual Lunix using pansy

Re:Your girlfriend... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564129)

gay homosexual

but im a sad heterosexual!

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHE FINDS OUT YOU'RE GAY??? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8563990)

Re:WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHE FINDS OUT YOU'RE GAY??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564039)

You then find out she's a man.

Must have separate roles (5, Insightful)

fembots (753724) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563992)

In my experience, it is important to have clearly defined, separate roles for each person, so that there will never be overlapping in terms of who does what.

One problem I had with family members is, it's actually more difficult to void your opinion because you still have a "outside" relationship with that person beyond work.

So the best way is to do different things in the business, as long as everybody has a common goal/mission.

cooperative venture (3, Insightful)

alan_d_post (120619) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563995)

You all need to go into this on equal footing, or the power relationships of
your little company will screw up the personal relationships you had with these
people.

Get ready.. (4, Insightful)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 10 years ago | (#8563998)

Get ready to see what you and your family's social skills are made of.

If you all enjoy being around each other and are not the typical types who burn bridges or act like hicks, then everything should work out fine.

Personally, my family and I would never be able to work together due to different beliefs and views on just about everything. Combine that with being stubborn and you have a powder keg waiting to go off.

Re:Get ready.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564185)

>different beliefs and views on just about everything

That never happened to me once I was able to force my beliefs on my family.

After that minor victory, I forced them on the

local school district,
then on the city council,
then on the state legislature,
then on the senate...

Now onto force them on the entire USA when I'm president

Signed: John F Kurrey

Hiring Family Members (2, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564001)

One thing to be aware of is that hiring family members has big tax advantages. Children can earn 7K+ per year tax free, and so on.

Better be prepared . . . (5, Interesting)

Rootman (110962) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564006)

to accept the fact that you may alianate your entire family. I was involved not in a tech business but in a cleaning business with family. It strained us to the point that I had to quit and things were rough between my sister and I for years.

If all of you are mature abd straight enough character wist it may work. I've seen one or two family business's that have worled, more that have failed.

NO (5, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564008)

Never work with friends or family. There are, of course, some exceptions.

Will you have the guts to fire your girlfriend if it comes to that? Or will you simply keep paying her? How about your brother? Unless you're able to look your family or friends in the face as a boss/employee relationship, DON'T.

Think of all the bosses you've had. Remember the really bad ones? Do you want that position?

Just make owner/employer status VERY clear (5, Informative)

pla (258480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564009)

Basically, you just need to keep clear documentation indicating who owns the business and who works for it.

Additionally, you may want to file for LLC status, so if you and your girlfriend part ways on less than friendly terms, she can't take the business away from you.

If you just barely manage to stay afloat, this doesn't really matter. But if you start making good money (and to support three people, you presumeably can't do all that bad), CYA.


Of course, this only covers the business aspects of the arrangement. If things do go sour, you may end up estranged from family and your GF leaving for completely financial reasons. But you can't really do much to avoid that, short of listening to your father (Gack! Did I just say that? Damn, getting old, I guess...)


PS, IANAL, which for any discussion like this, we could all save time by just sticking that in our sigs. ;-)

Why struggle? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564011)

Just keep them out of the picutre. Family and friends should support your business, refer people to your business, heck, send them a commission check every now and then, but to employ is to destroy.

Interesting concept (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564017)

As I have just hired on my girlfriend to help out

I'm thinking of hiring my gf so I can fire her and outsource her responsibilities to 10 women in India.

THAT'S MY SEXUAL FANTASY! YOU STOLE IT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564021)

Having your girlfriend as secretary! It's the classic where your secretary does the blowjob whenever you (the boss) wants it! Cool!!!! Go for it!!! Imagine her licking your dick!!!

STFU NIGGER (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564086)

STFU NIGGER

Easy. (0, Offtopic)

big_groo (237634) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564023)

And most importantly how do you handle authority (tardiness, work ethic, and workplace codes) with a girlfriend?

Blowjobs.

girlfriend ? hah ! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564026)

I am tired of all these slashdot readers pretending to have girlfriends and rubbing it in "how do you do X with a girlfriend ?", "how do you get a girlfriend to do Y".

Stop it. We all know.

2 jobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564027)

As I have just hired on my girlfriend
What a coincidence, so have I! I wonder if she can keep up with the workload of both jobs?

Have clear lines of authority. (1)

OgGreeb (35588) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564031)

I've worked with my brother as well as other family members over the course of my managed services
business, and the most important thing I found was to make clear who was the boss and who had the final
word on important decisions. I love my brother but we almost came to blows over some strategy and
purchasing decisions. Being family, those kind of problems inevitably spill over when you go home.
Once we worked out authority issues things got much easier.

Go for it -- with caveats (4, Insightful)

gregwbrooks (512319) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564032)

There are so many hurdles to starting a business that worrying about whether you can tell your employee to "shut the fsck up and get back to work" without having to hear about it over dinner that night. Having said that, look around in your community: In other cultures (Indian, east Asian, etc.) it's very, very common for a single family or multiple families to band together and make a business work. Some suggestions:

  • Employees, not partners. Unless you need the equity, it's a lot easier to get out of employment arrangements that go south than out of partnerships.
  • Maybe you treat them nicer than employees, but treat the *paperwork* just the same. Everyone gets an offer letter that spells out salary, benefits, hours, expectations, etc. Everyone gets reviews. Everyone has to document their time. Is it likely someone will sue you? No, but it *is* likely that disagreements will turn nasty if things aren't down on paper.
  • If you can grow your way into it, have someone outside the family in a management role. Things go better if there's someone unrelated in the middle.
  • Ask yourself: Do you really need the help? This is true whether you're hiring family or Joe Techie off the street. Employees are a steady expense in a world of uncertain cash flow -- make sure you're stretched *damned* thin before you commit to the expense.
Good luck! Oh, and noodle around my weblog [greg-brooks.com] for advice on business development and promoting your business.

Re:Go for it -- with caveats (1)

erktrek (473476) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564104)

I dunno if I necessarily agree with you on this one - I've co-owned a small business with a partner (no relation) for just about 5 years. Managing employees adds a lot of overhead that can be expensive (and labor intensive) to a new small business. Partnership agreements can be framed any which way (who gets profit, who does the work, who gets control etc).

Get a good lawyer & accountant to help sort things out beforehand.

E.

It all depends (4, Insightful)

mgeneral (512297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564036)

In general, I am against mixing family and business. I am a partner in a network computing consultancy. For one, I never sell or do work for family and friends. Its not the fact that they always want the "family-discount-plan", so much as the implied lifetime warranty that pursues.

In regards to working with family, I've seen it fail more times than it works. Having seen my wife work for a friend, and the subsequently starting her own business and hiring other friends...I've seen many relationships too easily soured by the friendship-employment misunderstandings.

Anyhow, with that said, I'm a partner in a company, 14 years, with my brother and mother. Now the key to our success is that we each brought unique talents. My brother is business sales and marketing, while my mother is business finance and accounting...me? of'course, I'm technical...why else would I be on /.

So my secret, if I had one...but I don't, because I openly share it, is don't mix if you bring similar skills. I think unique skills are required...then the family factor adds some value to it.
-mgeneral

girlfriend!!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564037)

You know, To many of us, that's a GREAT idea.

[1] An actual, real girlfriend!!!

[2] Not only that, she "helps out".. that too in the middle of work!

What fun! (3, Informative)

apoplectic (711437) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564038)

This can certainly be a challenging situation.

My wife and I worked at a tax software company at the same time. I was a member of the development team...she was a member of the quality assurance team. The relationship between a developer and a tester can get chippy at times since the relationship is somewhat adversarial. However, having your wife write up defects in your code can be VERY stressful!!

We had quite a few lovely exchanges, let me tell you! We are still together. And though we no longer work at the same firm, we have started a software company together. I'm the developer...she's the tester. I must be a glutton for punishment. Maybe this is some strange sort of S&M relationship, eh?

where's the entertainment? (1)

ack154 (591432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564048)

Doesn't this defeat the purpose of her sleeping her way to the top? I mean, if she's already sleeping with the boss/owner, where else is there for her to go? Especially just for secretarial work. She should have held out for more...

Office romance? (1)

g0qi (577105) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564051)

Think about it, the only sexual escapades you'll have at work, are with your girlfriend.

Oh wait, you'll also have to make sure your brother is not around. Darn.

Working with family can be very hard (1)

MakoStorm (699968) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564056)

It just might not be a great idea to work with family. From what I have seen in the past with other places, it usually causes rifts in relationships. It just will, because in work you will do things to other people that you might not want to do to a family member, but you need to, or need them to do something in order for something to work.

I love my wife but I would never work with her, because work is work, and in work we do things we dont want to do, and I dont want her to ever blame me for something or me blame her for something or for me to blame myself for anything.

yeah its long winded and dosent sound right, but dont hire family, work only causes relationships to crumble. I bet there is exceptions, but I bet there is a lot more divorces then exceptions

IF Compatible(You, GF) THEN Partnership (3, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564060)

My wife and I have worked together for 9 years in a small consulting business (we've been married 20 years). It works very well for us because we have complimentary skills, mutual respect, and agree on many issues of business straetgy and tactics. She can do things I can't do, and vice versa.

If you try to have a boss-employee relationship with your girlfiend or family, things might get ugly when you have to make an executive decision that they do not agree with or respect. You could try establishing "ground rules" but I'd bet that any asymmetries in the relationship, even if prearranged, will lead to grief.

This is a high-risk, high-reward issue. If you make this family business work, you will have the best time of your life. If you can't get along with family/coworkers you will have the worst time of your life.

Good Luck!

Have you heard about the Jewish sports car? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564064)

It stops on a dime, then picks it up.

Priorities (2, Interesting)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564063)

My family was involved in a business through most of the last century. Eventually it went bust handing over from one generation to the next. They all lost their jobs and the elders lost their pensions.

I kept out of it, reasoning that a business that big would end up owning you. Sadly it proved to be the case as nobody talks to each other any more. I'm not saying dont do it but be aware that relationships can come second to business. Also remember that relationships can change over time. Depends on the people involved, many cultures handle family businesses very well, but they tend to be the ones with very clearly deffined social heirarchy. The best bet would be to set out very clearly the rights and responsibilities of everybody involved - employment contracts right from the start. Then expect to adjust as time passes and the business changes.

A final suggestion is that the number one rule is dont lose a friends or family members money if they invest.

Consult a lawyer if there could be $$ at stake (5, Insightful)

siliconbunny (632740) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564068)

I've worked with family in a small programming enterprise on the side. It all worked well because we have a good work ethic (ie no disputes over not pulling weight), and because we respected each other's expertise: I did the coding and documentation, and no-one messed with it. But I didn't do anything with the marketing or management unless I was asked to help. Otherwise, clash of territory can == clash of egos == friction == personal fallings out.

Your enterprise currently sounds like this, and if it's just employment/contracting your relatives, and not equity in the business, there's probably less at stake. Be fair, be impersonal (ie no "you're fired because you beat up on me in the 8th grade") and treat them like you would any other worker. If it comes to a close call, be prepared to have to work out whether the business or the person is more important to you, and sacrifice the other.

However, if there's any question that equity is or might be involved, then anything more than a trivial enterprise needs to be set up right from the start. Otherwise, there is a very good chance of a falling out, and if there aren't procedures in place to handle it, it can get very messy -- not just acrimonious, but litigious to a point where the business itself cannot operate and falls apart, and everyone scrabbles over the still-twitching corpse. Especially if someone senses $$$$ in it for them...

I'm a lawyer now, and it may sound self-serving, but if there's any chance your relatives might work for any serious amount of time, or this business might make a serious amount of money, get a lawyer to settle the basics, in a binding form. Now, *before* there may be big money at stake, and before any disagreements have arisen. Put in place a process to deal with disputes (eg one of you wants to expand, the other wants to consolidate). Put in place a mechanism to handle what happens if one person wants out, or if you all want to go your separate ways. Do they just get cash, or do they get to take a chunk of your assets out too?

If it's just employment, you may feel that even asking for an employment (or consulting/freelancing) contract might be considered offensive. But you may want to check with a lawyer about ownership of IP created by your brother or girlfriend, though, if that's relevant...

Go for it (2, Interesting)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564069)

There are two views on this, and both have validity. If you do it right, it'll pay in spades. Do it wrong, and you'll end up pretty lonely.

Personally, I'm all about doing business with my family. Simply put, they are the people that I know and trust. If you hire someone, you really don't know them beyond what their resume says and what you can learn in an hour or two of interviewing, which is not much.

Money magazine had an excellent article on the subject last year, here it is in the archive:

Silver Spoon - In Praise of Nepotism [cnn.com]

The article is an interview with the author of a book called "In Praise of Nepotism", and makes some excellent points.

Who is the greatest Jewish cook ever? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564076)

Hitler.

and after that (5, Insightful)

StevenHallman76 (455545) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564072)

thinking slightly more long term.. let's say your business goes really well and you decide to hire someone else, someone not in the family. It puts that new person in a very akward position because they have to deal with typical office stress with the added dynamic that everyone else in the company is in the boss' family. not cool.

Re:and after that (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564134)

I second this; I know people who from bad experience will not as a rule work for a family business, as it gets a little pathological sometimes.

On the other hand, there are some family businesses who it would be a pleasure to work for because of the quality of people in the whole family. These are rare; the standard pathological setup with a single competent but quirky founder and a lot of incompetent family member employees trying to slide by is much more common.

offtopic, but wacky: Odd Food (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564075)

From New Zealand - Festival of Weird Foods ...Hare's testicle on menu at Wildfood Festival [stuff.co.nz] ...

Girlfriend (1)

fruity1983 (561851) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564079)

"And most importantly how do you handle authority (tardiness, work ethic, and workplace codes) with a girlfriend?" Cut her off. They always do it to us, like they have all the power. But it's an illusion. It always works. Unless they slap and dump you, of course.

If they are best for the job (0, Troll)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564080)

Well your family is pretty much responsible for your future - everyone rides on the success of their parents etc. Just look at bush, hes a nothing, a no-body, he hasnt a decent thought to his name, but hes the president of the USA, why? because of his father and family and their history. There are many examples of the same thing with past presidents and the same goes for business. Unless you're one of the very very lucky few who make their own fortune (no bill gates isnt one his family were rich) then you gotta band together as a family and make sure you make it big.

Only works as a partnership (4, Insightful)

benwaggoner (513209) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564087)

My wife and I have run a home-based consulting business together for three years now. The business is going quite well. I have a few suggestions that seem to make a difference.

First, it isn't going to work to have your significant other as an employee. She'll need to be a partner. A power inequality in the business side isn't going to work well with what should be an equitable relationship otherwise. This doesn't mean that everything has to be done by consensus - each party can have their area of responsibility (for our company, my wife does the books and infrastructure, and I do the sales and actual consulting. We supervise marketing jointly, since it isn't something either of us is that strong in).

If your SO is really an employee, how are you going to be able to negotiate a raise, or vacation time, or whatever? You won't be able to treat her "just like an employee" at work and then not elsewhere, and even if you could, you wouldn't want to.

Also, if you work and live together, you'll need to make sure to get some time apart in your lives. It can be rather hermetic to spend all day with the same person in the same place. This has gotten a lot more complex for us now that we have kids.

Yeah, the girlfriend thing might be tough. (1, Interesting)

AssProphet (757870) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564089)

It's important to think about why you hired her. Was it because she's really good at secretarial work? or was it because she's your girlfriend and she'd love to help out. It may not seem like it makes a big difference, but if you hired her because of your relationship, you are effectively extending your relationship boundries into the workplace. If you see her job as a perk of being together it may also cause you to devalue her position when you have a fight.

I'm not saying you shouldn't hire her, but just make sure she is loyal to you and your company.
And like others have said, a ring would be a good idea. If you want business commitment from her you probably need to promise her a future as well.

business and family don't mix (1)

pizza_milkshake (580452) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564094)

i would not give a family member any special treatment when it came to employment. i'd only hire them if they were as good as the best person that interviewed for the job... even then i'm not so sure.

i wouldn't want to have to fire someone i'll be seeing at family reunions for the rest of my life. that is, assuming you get invited.

We've managed it (2, Informative)

ccarr.com (262540) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564100)

My wife and I have run a tech consultancy business together for about five years. She does database work and I do just about everything else. The key to avoiding conflict has been for each of us to let the other manage his/her own client relationships. (More recently, she has a regular job and just helps out occasionally.)

I think an arrangement in which one of us reported to the other would not work nearly as well.

As an OT asside, we met as students when she was working on her second masters degree in an Engineering field and I was in my seventh year as a sociology undergrad. Little did we suspect that we would some day be running a business together! The .com bubble made for strange career paths. But lest you think I'm a jonny-come-lately to tech, I feel compelled to add that I've been programming since I was 12. I didn't major in CS for the same reason I didn't take English as a second language.

Two simple rules of thumb (2, Insightful)

mangastudent (718064) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564101)

To amplify a bit on some other good replies:

Do not hire anyone you are not willing to fire, with the attendant consequences.

Unless you are a master at dealing with people, non-family/friend potential hires or employees will view such a situation with extreme skepticism at best. Me, I spot a business owner one family member to handle the money, but beyond that I never go to work for a company that has more family/friend employees unless I'm desperate.

In the three or so situations where I didn't realize ahead of time the situation (and one very early startup composed of a set of friends and one brother who was a brilliant programmer), I had very bad experiences, but then none of the managers were very experienced.

Bottom line is probably "how big do you want your company to become?" If you go the route of nepotism, you'll be very lucky if it ever gets big (unless you have a lot of talented relatives you can hire! :-) You simply won't be able to hire or retain "outsiders" as you need.

Note this is somewhat akin to "high trust" vs. "low trust" cultures. E.g. (not to single them out, but they're a familiar example), Chinese tend to keep a company inside the family; this limits the type and scope of their companies, and in cases like Wang putting his son in charge of R&D, can (help) kill a company. (It's not likely Wang the company would have survived the transition to PCs, but this sealed its fate (I had a friend working in their R&D at the time)).

Doin' the Secretary... (4, Funny)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564103)

Well, I guess at least you can have sex with your secretary on your desk, and it's not going to be a problem...

Marry her (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564106)

Employing a family member is a mess. Full partnership is the best thing there is. You may fight like mad but you all know that you're fighting for the same thing. It doesn't make the fights any less intense but it does remove the poison of office politics.

Been there, done that (2, Insightful)

krray (605395) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564109)

I say GO FOR IT. Do you like and trust your family (I do mine)?
Coming from working at the major portion of the family business I had no issue working across the hall from my brother. Father running it at the other end of the building. Mom down the hall handling personnel. Heck, the admin assistant to the VP of sales is now my wife.

Dad started it and we all fell into it over the years. $250,000 to start and grew it to a 20 million dollar little biscuit over the 15+ years we all worked together. The good times were great and the bad sure didn't rip the family apart.

Economics of it just were not worked -- and what ticks me off is that we weren't getting RICH. I saw many business' come and go over the years with the owners having boats, race cars, jets, too many houses, etc. Sure, there was a nest egg being set aside in various assets -- but the business was MAKING money (then :). Shut the big portion down last year and pretty much went out separate ways -- not big business like the corporate setup before, but ironically we all still work together in one manner or another and of course still have a couple of other spawned family ventures in the works.

No, it would not have been possible without all of us working _together_ -- both in the thick and thin.

Heck, I've hired friends into the business over the years (and even had to lay off some of them -- including myself and my wife :(). I've even seen a friend fired from one job (working part time) that was another business from another branch of the family tree (bar tending and drinking the product doesn't work well :). His main job was no issue (and drinking at lunch was warned as a no-no :) ... and even though he's a borderline alcoholic -- he's still a friend (and employed again :).

Who are you going to trust? Keep your enemies nearby and at arms length. I wouldn't want to hire them though. I'd hire my brother or my wife in a heart beat. I trust them.

it can be good or bad... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564122)

ok, working with family can be great, but sometimes, things can be far from what you expect. I come from an indian background, so families working together is not uncommon - in fact, most rich families are set up in this way. But then again, asian families tend to be more closely knit, so such ways of working can succeed.

One problem comes, when you have to pay people etc.. it is difficult to pay someone less and someone more, especially within your family, as you are controlling their economic development - you feel as though you are resposible for their earning. This often leads to people feeling sorry for one another etc (as one is not earning as much as the other) and really complicates relationships.

The second problem is that you will soon run out of things to talk about. Your life will revolve around business. You wont be able to escape it. You need to understand how to balance family life with work... and believe me it can be hard.

Also, swindelling in family businesses can be a problem. Often, those who you trust can turn around to be something else... The closer the person is to you, the more chance of fraud! And then what can you say? After all that person is family!

Ok, now that I have scared you >-) , maybe I should tell you some good stuff:

You can really develop successfully, if you are willing to compromise and work together. Your company can be much bigger than you can imagine if you play your cards right...

Basically, if you are going to work with family, you need to be able to handle situations well, and be able to lead. There is a lot of pressure on you if you are running a company that your family is a part of.

Hope that helps.

Vaibhav (i am not an anonymous coward anymore!!)

Ohhhhhhh Lordy! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564124)

Have you opened a can of worms. I really, really, BIG can of worms.

But look, here's the base of the issue. You have to decide, right up front, what your priorities are. The business, or your girlfriend.

When it comes down to crunch time, which do you ditch in favor of the other?

If you ditch the girlfriend, under no circumstances allow her to work for you. It's that simple. You will lose both otherwise, and the process won't be what would generally be called "fun." You could even end up in jail. I've seen it happen. Vindictive girlfriends/wives know where all the bodies are buried. Even ones you don't know exist. They find 'em. They call the cops/IRS/SEC/Whoever.

If you ditch the business and keep the girlfriend, well, then you have to realize your working relationship is a direct extension of your personal one. You will never seperate the two, and if you try you'll end up spending a lot of nights sleeping on the sofa, or creating the above mentioned vindictive girlfriend/wife. Thus you have to treat all works issues as relationship issues.

Because, under these circumstances, they are. No way around it.

You are life partners, making your living together, not employee/employer. You harpoon the whale and handle the line, she handles the oars.

Please note that the person at the oars is always actually in control of the situation, no matter what the harpooner thinks.

KFG

From my experiences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564127)

I've worked in three different industries for family businesses. One, construction, was my family. The business was started by my grandfather and his brother, who both learned their trade from their father. My father and his brothers now run the business.

Notes from that experience: If the related people in the business really do pull their own weight, no one will really mind. If they don't, thats when resentment sets in. In that case you have to somehow seperate the family member in question to a position they can manage, or carefully extricate them. Case in point: When the business was passed to the current generation, all five brothers were involved. One was found to be a bit lazy over the years, and did some questionable spending with his expense account. The other brothers bought his portion of the business and he now sub contracts for them on occasion. Another brother is a very, very, very nice guy... but he's not very competent. They give him the jobs he's suited for, i.e. payroll, etc. They put him in "can't fail" positions because he is their brother and a cool guy. The remaining three brothers are all good at different areas, and to alleviate in-fighting they simple run the three portions of the business as seperate entities with shared resources. This has worked very well for them and has fostered a good competitive environment. My brother and cousins have also worked for the company at times. We had to put up with a bit of ribbing in the start, but my father always treated me like everyone else, and I worked just as hard. Basic point, related employees start from a deficit in the respect department. No one can deny how they got the job, they just have to prove that they deserve it by being very good at it.

The business I work for now is a restraunt. All the family members are very good at what they do. Again, compartmentalization is the rule of the day. The wife manages the menu, payroll and dress code enforcement type things, the husband manages the day-to-day stuff of ordering, managing the managers, etc. They have survived by hiring the best in the area and giving them a hands-off approach. The family owns two restraunts right now, and is opening a third. New restraunts seem to open because of a long-standing disagreement that is handled when money exists to expand. One of the disagreeing family members opens their own location.

The other family business I worked for was a tech-based company. The wife did the book keeping, the husband ran the actual tech stuff and their son ran the repair shop. This worked out quite fine. Everyone realized that the husband was really the only one entirely capable of his job, and part of that was having the guts to veto his family members when they were wrong.

So, to summarize :
1. Compartmentalize.
2. Hire short term people. (girlfriend)
3. Consider being partners with very qualified family members who have capital to put on the table.

Jared

My experience (2, Interesting)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564135)

I'm working with my two best friends in the whole world and it has already turned into a disaster (i've known these people since grade school). They came up with a great idea, started the business, incorported, got 3 clients, got stuck on a technical hurdle, needed me, I worked 12 - 16 hour days for a month to solve their problem. Problem is we never discussed partnership/employee, now Im holding the software ransom until I get what I want (partnership, they sure as hell can't afford to pay me) and the business and a 17 year and 10 year friendship sway in the balance.

Re:My experience (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564190)

There is the problem, you entered into the deal without a clear meeting of the minds as to how you would be compensated. There needs to be a deal as to what work units are going to be counted, and what the value per work unit was going to be.

That kind of heroic technical effort should be admired and respected... when it's not, well, the business could just plain colapse.

fire your girlfriend now! (1)

i_am_the_r00t (762212) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564138)

if she breaks up with you because you fired her then you should have never hired. If she does not break up with you then she is a glutton for punishment and cannot be trusted. if she whips your geek ass and then lets you date her again, you know you made the right choice, hire her back and gve her a raise. she deserves it!

Listen to your father (-1)

sbeast702 (447699) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564143)

I personally have experience with a family tech business, and let me tell you, in the beginning, it's the easiest way to hire people you trust, but in the end, it gets very frustrating when you tell your brother or girlfriend to do something from a boss stand point and they still see you as family.

I like to run a tight ship with my company and running it with family was not the best idea, because they see it as more of a living room than an office. I ended up finding other positions for my family members i had hired and hired a staff from the outside, everything has been smooth sailing since then.

LaTeX Girlfriend? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564145)

Wait a second... Is this a troll? Slashdoter with girlfriend? Is she LaTeX?

When does nepotism make sense? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564154)

IMHO, if a relative is QUALIFIED to do the job, it may be worth considering. The question is can you be objective enough to make that determination. I've seen cases where the bosses kid was put into a position that he definitely wasn't right for. Now, we're stuck with him. What's worse is that non-relative employees can't comment on the guy's effectiveness for fear of family retribution. Still, some family-owned businesses have done rather well.

Are you hiring the right people? (1)

Fratz (630746) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564157)

If you're hiring people you know very well (e.g. relatives, girlfriend), why are you already anticipating discplinary problems? Shouldn't you be certain that they will be good co-workers if you know them as well as you should? It's not like all you have are a resume and 3 references to go from...

Don't put all eggs in one basket (3, Interesting)

Wolfier (94144) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564160)

The more family members get involved, the higher risk that your family will run going backrupt if the business goes under.

Working together may change your relationship (2, Informative)

jerald_hams (725369) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564174)

About 10 years ago my parents opened a computer school together. My mom has some education in Human Resources, my dad was a programmer/DBA. They split the tasks so that everything involving people went to my mom, while all things computer related went to my dad. Whenever there was overlap (hiring teachers, which subjects to teach this semester, which computer hardware shop to trust etc..), horrible arguments ensued.

After a few years of fighting, my dad gave up on having his say, and just started doing whatever my mom told him to. The business functions smoothly now, they've expanded to a few new locations, and are becoming moderately successful. My mom runs the show, my dad fixes broken stations in his hidden-away office.

I guess the lesson of the story is that if both of you are strong-willed (as my parents started off), be prepared for some changes in the relationship. Either one of you will "break", or you'll live out your relationship in a constant state of bickering.

Duhhhhh (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564188)

And most importantly how do you handle authority (tardiness, work ethic, and workplace codes) with a girlfriend?"

Dump her if she is late.

eBay auctioning isn't a tech business (0, Offtopic)

Tweaker_Phreaker (310297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564189)

"Do any of you have successful family owned IT businesses, eBay businesses, or programming/software consulting engineering businesses and what's been or secret to success?"

What does eBay have to do with this? Even though it uses technology to function, it's still an auction business, not an IT/tech business. That said, I know of some people who make a living off of eBay and they have a pretty relaxed way of working. It usually involves lots of shopping (something most women would do anyways) and then a couple hours of taking photos and making a description of the item for the auction page. It's a good way for compulsive shoppers to put their habit into good use.

Too close... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8564202)

Running a business together can be TOO close sometimes.
I started a business with my brother, and became very resentful when I was putting money in from my pocket and he was spending it on an overpaid assistant who happened to be sleeping with him. It made get togethers with his wife and kid awkward too.

Well, here's my experience... (2, Interesting)

gooru (592512) | more than 10 years ago | (#8564204)

I worked for a small local ISP that wasn't owned by a family but had a lot of family members working there together. They all more or less got along except for some interesting incidents before I got there that caused an ugly rift. But whatever, the company was then bought out and everyone got laid off. It was a good work environment, as everyone got along with everyone else. However, there was a clear amount of nepotism, and once everybody was out on their ass on the street together, that was no good. My recommendation: don't do it. Are you really expecting to stay with your girlfriend with her working for you? Come on. Really.
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